When Joe Santilli played his final game as a Husky last season, many fans thought it would be the last time they saw him at Matthews Arena for a while. As the new assistant coach, however, he will be around pretty often.
After five seasons as a forward with the team and 41 career points, Santilli will be making the transition from student to teacher, as he attempts to take what he learned as a player and convey that as a coach.
“He likes hockey, he’s got the hockey bug, he loves NU, and he’s got the knowledge and the passion to make a great coach,” head coach Greg Cronin said.
The transition to coaching will mark the end of a remarkable playing career that included 86 games played at Northeastern and a stretch during the 2002-2003 season when he notched two game winning goals against UMass-Lowell and Massachusetts in the same week.
“Joe is someone who could’ve played in the ECHL, but his body was telling him not to, and the easiest way to stay in the game was to coach,” Cronin said.
While this will be his first coaching experience at the Division I level, Santilli isn’t new to coaching. He gained prior experience as a head instructor at the Lovell Hockey School, where he primarily taught skating techniques, and as an assistant in the Blue Chip Summer Leagues.
“This was a great way to stay in the game, I always loved the game,” Santilli said. “It was almost a no-brainer.”
As a coach, he will be focusing on opponent scouting, skating, skill work and helping with the power play.
“I think I can bring a lot of energy, there’s a lot of great players here,” Santilli said. Having finished as a player so recently, Santilli will also face the unique challenge of coaching former teammates and friends.
“I was really close to a lot of the guys last year,” Santilli said, “there’s a lot of respect there. I’m gonna try to help them, and hope they’ll respond. They have so far.”
The players have adapted well to their new relationship with Santilli, who has involved himself with the team off the ice as well by talking with the team and making sure classes are going well.
“They know they can go to Joe [Santilli],” said junior forward Joe Vitale. “It gives us a chance to open up to a new assistant coach a little better, we’re less intimidated.”
Santilli said he is also excited for the opportunity to fill a coaching position at the D-1 level so early into his career.
“It’s a really, really great way to get started,” he said. “To be 25 [years old] with a D-1 position is an incredible opportunity.”
Cronin said Santilli’s knowledge of the system and familiarity with the players will help him make the most of the opportunity and be a real asset to the team.
“The great thing about Joe, is that he knows the system,” Cronin said. “He’s a student of the game, he’s got a great personality and he’s friendly and easy to talk to.”